Safe Skincare for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome | Histamine Intolerance
Good skincare is important when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance. Did you know that skin is the largest organ of your body?
I know you’re reading this because you’re working hard to take good care of your health. And that includes thinking about your skin.
You work on cleaning up your diet for better gut health. And you exercise for good heart health and lymph drainage. You support your Mast Cells and rest of your immune system with really good supplements.
And you’ll want to take good care of your skin, too!
This is because Mast Cells are found in almost every part of the body. And there are loads of them in your skin.
How young (or old) your skin looks largely depends on how happy your Mast Cells in your skin are! There are a number of research articles on this.
When I was younger, my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome was out of control.
I vividly remember being at a video rental store when I was 13. (Remember when we had those?)
And I thought it strange that this cute boy behind the counter was chatting with me so much. He even asked me if I wanted to go to Chicago with his friends.
I was waaay too young for that. When I asked him how old he thought I was, he said 18 or 19! I had to let him down and tell him I was still in the 8th grade.
Still, it seemed pretty cool to me at that age.
But after college, people still thought I was a good 6-7 years older than I was. Eventually, that didn’t seem so great.
Back then, I used the kind of regular makeup and other skin products you’d get at the grocery. And it was worsening the Mast Cells in my skin.
Have you had:
- Early wrinkles
- Dry skin
- Flaky scalp
- Itchy skin
- Loss of Hair
- Rashes on the skin
- Skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis
If so, your personal care products might be the culprit.
See, topical products often contain toxic ingredients. And they aren’t regulated by the FDA or anyone else.
They can be anywhere from simply irritating to at worst cancer causing!
My skin looks dramatically different than it did when I was using toxic products.
Overhauling my skin products made a huge difference.
Once I kicked all those toxic skincare products to the curb, I started noticing big improvements. No more flaky scalp. No more eczema. No more itching!
And there was one more benefit. Once I ditched those “anti-aging” products I noticed something interesting. My skin actually looks better now than it did when I was 20-something!
These days often think I’m 10 to 12 years younger than I am!
In this blog post we’ll talk about some common products you might use in your personal care routine. And we’ll look at some of the toxins found in those products.
But not to worry! There are a lot of great alternatives available these days. I now use natural Mast Cell supporting moisturizers when my hands get dry in the winter.
And I still love my make-up! I’ve even found a great option to tame frizzy hair on humid days.
I’ll be sharing all my favorite Mast Cell supporting skin products with you at the end.
Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, my line-up is made up of natural, organic products. Those should be fine, right?”
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Let’s start by looking at why you must be careful with “natural” products.
The Problem With Some “Organic” and “Natural” Brands -- What to Know If You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
So, maybe I’ve got you curious now. And you went to check out your bottle of shampoo. Yep, it says right there on the bottle “non-toxic” and “organic.” With wording like that, you’d think you’d be in the clear. Sadly, that’s not always the case.
Especially if you’re dealing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
I didn’t know what to look out for when I first became aware of toxins hiding in skin care products. I just knew that the drug-store brands were making my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome worse.
And on top of that, they weren’t even doing the things they claimed they could do (moisturizing, for example).
So I started to shift toward brands that had labels like “natural” or “non-toxic.” I thought Aveda products would be a good fit. And I thought anything in the health food store’s beauty aisle would be ok.
So you can imagine how surprised I was when I found out many “natural” brands still contain toxic ingredients. They have things like Fragrance, Geraniol, and Behentrimonium Chloride!
This showed up in everything from Aveda to brands like Jason and Alba that are available in health food stores. I learned that just because something is marketed as safe, that doesn’t mean it is.
You really have to check ingredient lists and do your own research.
You should also be aware of what’s in some products labeled “hypoallergenic” and “anti-aging.”
“Anti-aging” products can also have ingredients that do more harm than good.
Let’s look at one product for example:
Physicians Formula Skin Concern Anti-Aging Wrinkle Filler & Deep Moisture Repair.
- fragrance, a known carcinogen
- Ext D&C Violet 2 – a coloring agent that is an allergen, toxic to the immune system, and carcinogenic
- Potassium sorbate, a preservative that is a big mast cell trigger
And that’s just a few of the mast cell triggers in this product alone! But this isn’t the only “anti-aging” product on the market with mast cell triggering ingredients.
And “hypoallergenic” products often have triggering ingredients, too.
The Aveeno Moisturizing Bar is marketed with the language: “Dermatologist Tested,” “Fragrance Free,” and for “Dry Skin.” Sounds great.
But it has parabens, which are a hormone disruptor.
And it has titanium dioxide, a known mast cell trigger.
And the research studies tell us, if something has mast cell triggers, it will actually increase aging!
Another product marketed as sensitive/hypoallergenic/unscented is Secret Clinical Strength Smooth Solid Women’s Antiperspirant & Deodorant.
It contains these mast cell triggers:
All of these are toxic to organs. Plus, there is aluminum. Aluminum has been linked to neurological issues in those with detox challenges.
These ingredients I just talked about are just some of the toxins you want to avoid in your personal care products. Next, I’ll share with you a list of things to steer clear of when choosing your skincare.
Toxic Triggers in Personal Care Products – What to Know When You Have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
You likely have several of these products in your home right now:
- Anti-Aging Serums
- Body Wash/ Shower Gel
- Fragrances like perfumes, body mists, or colognes
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Soaps (including hand soap and bath soap)
- Makeup (including lip balms)
- Moisturizing lotions for face, hands, and body
- Sun Protection
This is just a small list of personal care products you might use daily.
Alarmingly, topical products like these aren’t regulated by the FDA at all! So it is perfectly legal for companies to put any number of chemicals in their products.
This is a longer post so you can understand which ingredients can be a problem. And then you’ll learn about lots of Mast Cell friendly, toxin-free options!
Up next you’ll find:
- A quick list of ingredients you don’t want in your personal care products.
- Mast Cell Safe Personal Care Products
- The Top 10 toxins and why you should avoid them
But if you want to go straight to my recommendations for safe skincare products, you can skip to the Mast Cell Safe Personal Care Products section below.
Let’s get to the quick list of ingredients to avoid next. Do you see these in any of your products? If so, you’ll want to toss that product out and replace it with something Mast Cell friendly.
Quick List of Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products
- Citric Acid
- Clove or Cinnamon
- Heavy Metals:
- Lead Acetate
- Hydrogenated cotton seed oil
- Sodium hexametaphosphate
- Micronized quartz silica, fullerenes
- Micronized titanium dioxide
- Micronized zinc oxide
- Nano zinc oxide
- Potassium Sorbate and Potassium Triphosphate
- Sodium Benzoate and Sodium Triphosphate
- Synthetic Colors
- Triclosan and other Antibacterial Products
- Toulene, formaldehyde, and formalin (found in nail products)
- Xanthan Gum
Next I’m going to get to some of my recommendations. But if you want to learn more about the Top 10 Toxins and why you should avoid them, keep reading.
Mast Cell Safe Personal Care Products for those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
With all these toxic ingredients, you may be asking yourself: How can you ever find non-toxic personal care products?
Don’t worry. I want to make it easier for you by sharing some of my favorites. I hope it will help you avoid the trouble I had before I knew that “non-toxic” labels didn’t always mean safe.
There are some good options available. My recommendations aren’t the only ones out there. So, for any product you aren’t sure about, you can check out the website below. It’s a great resource.
But below are products I personally use and love. They are non-toxic and don’t have any of the top mast cell triggers in them.
Of course, everyone is different in what they can tolerate. It’s always best to start a new product by diluting it and spot testing a small area.
This way, if you do have a reaction, you can manage your symptoms easier and with less irritation.
Let’s start with some of my favorite moisturizers.
Safer Moisturizers for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
But what I really like about it is this…nothing is added in or taken out. Some other emu oils are deodorized and bleached. That process removes the nutrients that support your skin.
Walkabout doesn’t do that. So, the nutrients that soften and regenerate you skin are left in.
Walkabout Australian Emu Oil is the gold standard for emu oil. And if you have salicylate intolerance, this might be a good choice for you to consider.
Organic Rose Hip Oil
I use this as part of my night-time routine. I apply it to areas that get sun exposure during the day.
But you can use it as a whole-body moisturizer, too. I like Rose Hip Oil because it’s lightweight and absorbs nicely.
Rose hip oil is naturally high in retinoids (form of Vitamin A). Retinoids help regenerate the skin…especially sun damaged skin.
One precaution: don’t use it immediately before going out in the sun. While the skin is regenerating, it’s best to avoid sun exposure. If you use it at night, you’ll be fine by the morning.
Many moisturizers contain ingredients that will further dry out your skin. Alcohol will dehydrate your skin, for example.
That’s great for the companies because you have to buy more moisturizer. But it doesn’t help your dry hands! You might get temporary relief, but in the long run, it’s likely your dry skin will return.
But Primal Life has a body butter that is rich in Vitamin E, which is great for moisturizing. This body butter is chemical and alcohol free and certified organic.
It’s a blend of Aloe Butter (Coconut Oil and Aloe Leaf Extract), Unrefined Shea Butter, Pure Filtered Beeswax, Jojoba Oil, Unrefined Coconut Oil, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
It’s rich in antioxidants, too. Antioxidants help protect cells against the toxic effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging.
Safer Hair Care Products for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Shampoo and Conditioner
I like the Honey and Coconut shampoo and conditioner from 100% Pure. They use mostly certified organic, plant-based ingredients in their products. This is the only non-toxic shampoo I’ve found that really gets my hair clean.
I like the smell of the essential oils they use. It’s like aromatherapy every time you shower.
The other great thing about 100%Pure is their satisfaction guarantee. They will exchange or refund gently used products within 60 days of purchase.
You can find those here:
Now, I know dry shampoo has become a staple for many on-the-go people. I’ve got an option for you for that as well.
Get 15% off with code mastcell360
It’s paraben free! And they use all-natural ingredients like kaolin clay which absorbs excess oil.
And it doesn’t rely on aerosol chemicals to deliver the goods. They use a shake-on powder which is better for you and the environment.
It does have corn starch – some people do just fine with it, but if you are really sensitive to corn, it might not be the right product for you.
And if you are anything like me, even the slightest humidity will have you with wild frizzy hair. So you’ll want a finishing oil to keep those fly-aways tame.
Organic Broccoli Seed Oil is a lightweight oil that is perfect for smoothing frizzy hair days. Just use a tiny amount and smooth on the top layer of hair.
No, you won’t smell like the produce aisle at the grocery. It just has a slightly nutty smell. I store mine in the fridge. A little goes a long way so it lasts a long time. Refrigeration helps keep it from going rancid.
Ok, so let’s move to options for your face next.
Face Care for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Primal Life Organics Face Washes are a nice combo for cleansing and moisturizing. They currently have two options that are Mast Cell Friendly. The Carrot Seed Cleanser is good for oily skin, while the Pomegranate Cleanser is better for normal to dry skin.
The moisturizer in this package combines 100% organic all-natural botanicals for improving complexion and removing toxic build up, too. And of course, it helps keep skin hydrated.
You can also get those separately if you prefer.
Primal Life Organics Carrot Seed Elixir is good for balancing skin and boosting your complexion.
Carrot seed oil is known to have skin-mending, collagen-boosting and moisturizing properties. It contains vitamins A, C and E which help to increase cell turnover, brighten skin, and reduce inflammation.
It helps remove toxic build up to give a boost to your complexion. And it can help balance out the skin so that it’s not too oily or too dry.
Safe Sun Protection for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
You want to protect your skin from harmful, prolonged exposure to the sun. But if you do happen to have too much fun in the sun, you’ll want to give your skin extra care.
Sunscreen is one of those products where you’ll often seen nano-particles and parabens – two mast cell triggering ingredients you want to avoid.
But you do want to protect you skin when you are outside. Nobody benefits from a sunburn.
Primal Life Organics has a natural sun protection.
The signature ingredient in it is red raspberry seed oil. It has a natural SPF of 28-50.
Other ingredients in this product also offer natural SPF protection. Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, and coconut offer an SPF range or 2-15.
This does have zinc oxide. But it’s non-nano. Micronized zinc oxide should be avoided. Remember we talked about the nano-particles being more toxic. Again, this form in non-nano.
Zinc oxide is used as an effective broad-spectrum sunblock.
And the other great feature about this product is that it comes in an eco-friendly cardboard container!
But what if you do get too much exposure?
Primal Life has you covered there, too.
Sun Down After Sun Moisturizer from Primal Life is great if you have a little too much sun exposure. But it’s also good for things like mosquito bites or scratches.
This also has the red raspberry seed oil in it. Red raspberry seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids. Those fatty acids are used to promote skin regeneration and provide anti-aging skin benefits.
It’s made up of moisturizing oils like coconut and argan oil. And in addition to moisturizers, it has Carrot Seed Oil, Lavender, Bergamot for soothing the skin. All great after a day in the sun.
Kauai Farmacy Beauty Balm is another good all-purpose skincare balm. It’s got coconut oil which is good for replenishing moisture. They suggest using it as an overnight beauty cream for face and body.
But it also has calendula and noni to promote rapid skin healing. That can aid in quicker rejuvenation for minor cuts and scratches as well as sun exposure.
So now you’ve got some good choices for looking good. Smelling good is up next. Next up…deodorant.
Deodorant Options for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
I’ve tried several aluminum –free deodorants. Most of them were not effective…at all. I know natural deodorants have a negative reputation for this reason. But I found one that worked.
Natural deodorants are often formulated with baking soda. And for some people, that leads to an underarm rash. And that’s not just people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome!
Primal Life’s Stick Up is made without baking soda. Instead it’s formulated with cleansing bentonite clay. And odor-fighting zinc oxide, magnesium and coconut oil. And to help stay dry, there is arrowroot powder.
While we are on the subject of smelling nice, you might be thinking about adding a signature scent for yourself to your beauty routine.
But most perfumes are out of the question since they contain “fragrance.” In this case fragrance doesn’t just mean a certain smell. Fragrance as an ingredient can be made up of a number of undisclosed ingredients. And many are mast cell triggering.
The alternative for this is to use essential oils. Not everyone can tolerate essential oils, but for those who can, this is an easy way to replace perfume.
You can even mix scents to create your own custom blend.
Rocky Mountain Essential Oils are the ones I like best. Essential oils vary greatly in quality, purity, and strength. Some even contain added chemicals that can be toxic for those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
To learn more about essential oils, including how to store them properly and their other benefits, check out the blog post:
Essential oils are good for more than just smelling nice!
Finally, here is a product I’ve been getting asked a lot about lately: hand sanitizers.
Gentle Hand Sanitizers for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
With hand sanitizers, you want to be careful. Anti-bacterial products are always great, as we talked about. But sometimes, you need may want to kill some germs when soap and water aren’t available.
Like maybe at the grocery store. It’s a good practice to wipe down your cart. Flu and cold season are no joke. Cold viruses can survive for about seven days. Flu viruses can survive for about 24 hours.
A lot of people touch those carts. And a lot of children ride in that front seat. That’s a lot of baby drool and potentially unwashed hands.
So after you wipe down your cart, you might want to clean your hands.
Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer with Eucalyptus and Mint from Wellnesse is one I’ve found to be gentle.
Get 15% off with code mastcell360
Salicylate Free Skincare Options for Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
For those of you with salicylate intolerance who are wondering what other options you have, you can check out the full line of products at Cleure.
And a final reminder: If you tend to be sensitive, introduce new products one at a time.
If you have a reaction, you’ll know which thing caused the problem. And start with a test area. A small reaction on your arm is better than a big reaction all over your body.
Now you’ve got a quick list of no-no ingredients to reference. And you can check out some of my recommendations for some good Mast Cell safe options.
Let’s end with a more in-depth look at the Top 10 Toxins and why you should avoid them.
The Top 10 Toxins and Why You Should Avoid Them -- For Those With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), fragrance is considered a VERY HIGH health concern. There are over 3,100 ingredients that can be called “fragrance.” Some are lung and immune toxins.
And companies are not required to list the ingredients in “fragrance.”
Whether the fragrance is in your perfume or lotion, your scented candles or your laundry detergent – it’s toxic.
Here are a few more issues that can be associated with fragrance:
- Skin irritation
- Respiratory issues
- Hormone disruptions
- Contributing to cancer
- Contributing to reproductive issues.
True essential oils are different from fragrances though. And they are generally Mast Cell safe unless you have smell sensitivities. Just make sure you’re using true essential oils.
Parabens are commonly used as a preservative. You might see paraben compounds listed as:
Parabens have been found to be involved with:
- Hormone disruption
- Breast and skin cancer
- Reproductive issues
- Developmental issues
Some synthetic colorings come from tar and petroleum products.
If you see FD&C or D&C + a number, this is a synthetic color. For example, D&C Red 27.
Some of these are considered safer but some are considered toxic. So, I just prefer to avoid all synthetic colors in my personal care products.
It is easy to use safe minerals and vegetable colors in products instead.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfates
If you see a commercial for soap and someone is happily singing in the shower while lathering up, that lather is from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It’s found in soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste.
Lather looks great in an ad, but it isn’t necessary for a product to clean well.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate can actually be a major skin irritant for many people. It can contribute to canker sores and mast cell activation.
Lead is a major health risk. You may be most familiar with it in regards to home building materials. We’ve heard about the problems it can cause in water pipes. And in older homes, there can be lead in window casings and paint.
But did you know many cosmetics are still being contaminated with lead through color additives?
Think about lipstick. A person who wears lipstick regularly can swallow up to 10 pounds of lipstick a year! This is a big concern if there are toxic ingredients giving the lipstick its color.
Hair color commonly contains lead as lead acetate. If you go to a salon to get your hair dyed, ask to read the label on the coloring agent first!
Do you use any of these products?
- Eyeliner/ Eyeshadow
- Nail color
They may have any of these metals added:
Sometimes metals are added purposefully. Aluminum often acts as an anti-perspirant, for example. It’s still something you want to avoid, but it was added on purpose.
Other times metals get in these products as unintentional contaminants. These metals have been linked to reproductive, immune, and nervous system issues.
Watch out for these ingredients as well:
- Hydrogenated cotton seed oil
- Sodium hexametaphosphate.
Aluminum can be found in many deodorants and cosmetics. It has been linked to nervous system toxicity, brain disorders, and breast cancer.
If you don’t detox metals well, aluminum can build in your body to dangerous limits.
The prefix “nano” means very small or at a microscopic level.
There is no single type of nanomaterial. They can be created from a variety of elements and compounds.
The microscopic size of these particles makes them much more toxic. They may stay in the body for up to six months and likely can cross the blood brain barrier.
These microscopic particles are made in a laboratory. They are often found in other personal care products like:
- Anti-aging products
- Nail polish
When used in spray products like sunscreen, they can easily be inhaled and get lodged in the lungs.
Avoid these nanoparticles:
- micronized zinc oxide
- nano zinc oxide
- micronized titanium dioxide
- micronized quartz silica
Triclosan and Other Antibacterial Products
Triclosan is used for its antibacterial and preservative properties. But it can cause immune system disruption and affect thyroid hormones.
That’s one reason to avoid it! And actually, handwashing with regular soap if more effective for getting rid of bacteria!
Antibacterial products may be stripping away the good bacteria on the skin, too. This makes us more vulnerable to antibacterial resistant infections like MRSA.
Bottom Line: Avoid antibacterial products.
Talc is a powder agent. You’re probably most familiar with it in the baby powder. But it can also be found in:
- Shower products
- Feminine hygiene products
- Face masks
Talc is often contaminated with asbestos, a cancer-causing agent. There are links with talc and reproductive cancers. Also, cancers of the lining of the lungs, heart, and stomach.
It can cause respiratory issues, lung toxicity, and genital inflammation.
Toulene and other Nail Polish Additives
Toulene is found in nail polishes and hair color. It has been banned in Europe in personal care products.
Even at levels below 10 parts per million, it can lead to serious nervous system issues, like nausea, confusion, and memory issues.
It can cause fetal damage in pregnant mothers. And it is a skin irritant.
Nail polishes may also contain formaldehyde and formalin. You may remember that terrible smell of formaldehyde from your high school biology class days. It’s what the specimens were preserved in.
You don’t want to breathe this in.
So this was just a list of 10 toxic ingredients that can be mast cell triggers. Unfortunately, there are thousands of toxic ingredients in skincare and other personal care products!
A general rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t swallow it, don’t put it on your skin!
Taking good care of your skin means you are also taking good care of your mast cells!
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2008, December 18). Chromium (Cr) Toxicity: What Are the Physiologic Effects of Chromium Exposure? | Environmental Medicine | ATSDR. ATSDR. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/chromium/
Abdel Hafez S. (2019). Age related changes in the dermal mast cells and the associated changes in the dermal collagen and cells: A histological and electron microscopy study. Acta histochemica, 121(5), 619–627. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acthis.2019.05.004
Aiello, Allison E.; Larson, Elaine L.; Levy, Stuart B. (2007). Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky? Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Chemicals of Concern. Accessed July 6, 2019. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chem-of-concern/
Environmental Working Group and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (2010). Not so Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance.
Foddai, ACG; Grant, IR; Dean, M. (2016). Efficacy of Instant Hand Sanitizers against Foodborne Pathogens Compared with Hand Washing with Soap and Water in Food Preparation Settings: A Systematic Review. Journal of Food Protection.
Gendrisch, F., Esser, P. R., Schempp, C. M., & Wölfle, U. (2021). Luteolin as a modulator of skin aging and inflammation. BioFactors (Oxford, England), 47(2), 170–180. https://doi.org/10.1002/biof.1699
Nadarajah, Sangeetha; Skaggs, Katherine; Findlater, Malcolm; Sturdivant, Seth. (2018). Does antibacterial soap prevent the spread of infection more than regular soap? Evidence-Based Practice.
Pilkington, S. M., Barron, M. J., Watson, R., Griffiths, C., & Bulfone-Paus, S. (2019). Aged human skin accumulates mast cells with altered functionality that localize to macrophages and vasoactive intestinal peptide-positive nerve fibres. The British journal of dermatology, 180(4), 849–858. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjd.17268
Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. Accessed July 6, 2019. Environmental Working Group https://www.ewg.org/skindeep
Yang-lin, H., Wei, G., Hong-ying, L., & Jian, T. (2016). The Role of the Mast Cell in Skin Aging. Journal of Dermatology Research and Therapy, 2(5). https://doi.org/10.23937/2469-5750/1510035
It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone. Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner.
Before you change your diet on your own, please make sure you’re working with a healthcare practitioner who can help you with this.